Biden’s Inauguration: A Historic Call For Unity
By: Susanna Conway
Photo by: Diego Cambiaso
On January 20, 2021, at the 59th Presidential Inauguration in our country's history, Joseph R. Biden and Kamala D. Harris were sworn in as the 46th President and Vice President of the United States, making history. The ceremony, which took place in front of the United States Capitol, was attended by many prominent politicians, including almost all living former presidents. Due to the ongoing health risks of COVID-19, only members of congress and a guest of their choosing were allowed to attend, reducing the usual one or two million attendees to just over 1,000. Among those present were overwhelming numbers of law enforcement, after the Capitol riots just two weeks earlier put the nation’s security in question. Security concerns also canceled the inaugural train ride, which for years has been a Presidential tradition.
One particularly noticeable absence was that of former President Donald Trump, as he became the first departing President since Andrew Johnson in 1869 to not attend his successor’s inauguration. After denying his loss for weeks following its certification, the former President finally agreed to a peaceful transfer of power following the Capitol riots and departed the White House for the final time that morning. Former Vice President Mike Pence, whose life had been threatened by angry Trump supporters just two weeks earlier, was not present at Mr. Trump’s early morning farewell party, but instead attended the inauguration of President Biden along with his wife Karen.
Prior to the ceremony, President Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden attended Catholic mass, extending the invitation to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, which they all accepted. Following this, all headed to the inaugural event, where President Biden and Vice President Harris would soon be sworn in. The ceremony was opened by Senator Amy Klobuchar, who stated that “this is the day when our democracy picks itself up and does what America always does, goes forward as a nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”. Next came Republican Senator Roy Blunt, who expressed his deep condemnation for the January 6th Capitol attacks, along with his desire to form a new beginning and unite.
The national anthem was sung by pop star Lady Gaga, followed by the swearing-in of Vice President Kamala Harris. Harris, who was sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, made history as the nation’s first female vice president, along with the first African and Asian American to ever hold the office. Following this was a stunning performance by Jennifer Lopez of “America the Beautiful”, reciting a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance in her Spanish tongue.
Chief Justice John Roberts then administered the oath of office to President Joe Biden, who used his family’s 128-year-old bible to officialize his promises. In addition to becoming the first President from Delaware, Biden, age 78 years and 61 days, became the oldest United States President, breaking the record of Ronald Reagan, who left office at age 77. In his Inaugural address, President Biden stated that “the will of the people had been heard”, adding that “at this hour, democracy has prevailed”. Mr. Biden also thanked his predecessors from both sides of the political spectrum, expressing his desire for unification to address the challenges ahead. “I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did”, Biden concluded.
Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, became the country’s first youth poet laureate, performing a powerful poem addressing the nation’s need for repair and reconciliation. “We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be, a country that is bruised but the whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free”, Gormon recited. All speeches given at the ceremony resonated a common theme. A country, becoming increasingly divided and polarized, must come together in political unity, and though our opinions may continue to differ, “if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions, and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us” (Hillary Clinton).